Moving away from the churchyard at Tara, as you pass through the swinging gate, the first monument that you will encounter is a rather bumpy looking piece of waste ground known as ‘Ráth Na Seanadh’ or the Ráth of the Synods. This particular Ráth would appear to be of some significance as it is the only one that is made up of four separate groups of banks and ditches, and there is evidence of a wooden structure in the center of this. A portion of the Ráth has been encroached on by the outer wall of the churchyard and there has been quite a lot of disturbance to the earthworks. This section of Tara was said to have contained a number of circular wooden structures from 200 B.C right up until 700 A.D. Like the other monuments on Tara, This Ráth may well have begun as a burial and ritual site, dating back to the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age. I could not find an earlier name for this site, but according to an 11th century text its current name is first mentioned in connection with St. Patrick, where it is believed that both he and some of his successors like Adomnán and Brendan held important Synods here. In 1810 the Golden Torques of Tara were found in the general vicinity of where the church wall encroaches on the Ráth. Although some accounts mention three being found, there is currently on two remaining, which are both housed in the National Museum in Dublin.
My biggest problem with shooting Tara is the difficulty aside from the unreliable weather is in attempting to show its true nature. Today as you walk around this ancient site, all you will see is a collection of mounds and trenches covered in grass. To truly appreciate these sites you need to see them from above. Google maps can do the job and I will be highlighting the positions of all the sites associated with Tara on my Ruinhunter Map. Mythical Ireland also has a nice collection of Aerial shots which you can see HERE. That said I have tried to show these earthworks as best as I can from the ground. One of the main reasons that this particular site out of all the others at Tara is so difficult to make out is due to a major devastation of the area by a nasty group of cult members calling themselves the ‘British Israelite’s’ whom arrived at Tara in search of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant in 1899. Now I know our ancient Texts claim that a number of the settlers of these ancient lands were descendants of the tribe of Dan (fifth tribe of Israel), some were said to even be related to Noah. With the treat that Egypt posed at the time these early want to-be Tomb Raiders must have really believed that the Ark was hidden here. But to assume that the Ark was buried on Tara is akin to a Holy Grail quest. And so they spent several days digging up the Ráth of the Synods on their failed quest which as it happens, pissed off some very well-known Nationalists including Gonne, Griffiths and Yeats whom are said to have actively campaigned to stop this wilful destruction of an ancient monument. I also heard stories that both Yeats and his buddy A.E. Russell whom were both high ranking members of the Golden Dawn did a lot more than just campaign against these British Israelite’s’. And all they recovered were some Roman coins which were left there by some mischievous locals.
During the 1950’s some proper excavations were carried out by a Seán P. Ó Riordáin, whom identified four main phases of activity on the Ráth, despite the damage done some 50 years previously. The first phase consisted of an oval shaped enclosure which contained a Barrow. This barrow was created using a cairn of stone which was covered over with the soil dug out from the surrounding ditch. Inside five cremated burials were noted. Later a further number of cremations were added to the top of the mound which had been levelled at the time for this purpose. During the second phase a number of palisaded enclosures were added, which would suggest that the site was used during this period for habitation. During the third phase the site was once again used as a burial ground with a further several burials being uncovered. The final phase of activity noted here was the building of a fourth and final enclosure, similar to the find at Tlachtga. Some interesting artefacts found here suggest that the inhabitants had come into contact with the Roman Empire. Even though the Romans are known for not attempting to exert their influence in Ireland. Recently certain writers have waxed lyrical and claimed that Ireland might be the lost kingdom of Atlantis and Tara was its capital?